Spiritual Spaces. History and Mysticism in Michel de Certeau
In 1973, a radio discussion was broadcasted between Michel de Certeau and Jean-Marie Domenach, programmed as „Christianity, a new mythology?“ Yet, none of the speakers really answered the question. Instead, they could not stop evoking the crisis Christianity was in, not so much in order to find a way out as to look, in this very crisis, for Christianity’s essence. This certainly goes for Certeau’s contribution. It is in the „éclatement“ – in the breaking, the disintegration – of the Christian religion that Certeau tries to discover the ‚éclat‘ of its very core. That core is not to be found in its doctrinal discourse nor in that of its „mythology“. It is to be found in the moments its discourses break, where they lose control or get interrupted or haunted by something which is not discursive at all; which, with regard to discourse, is marked by radical alterity or difference. In his assay, Marc De Kesel focusses on Michel de Certeau’s theory of religion – or, more exactly, of Christianity – as elaborated in his essay accompanying the publication of this radio discussion, it is first of all to sketch the dependence of that theory to the reigning discourse theories of that time in Paris, Michel Foucault’s among others. Yet to grasp the specific problem of Certeau’s religion theory, a reference to Jacques Lacan’s theory of the subject will be as enlightening as unavoidable. All this will raise the question whether Certeau’s theory of religion is not dependent on the discourse theories of his time, to such an extent that Christianity as such is confused with this theory. If Christianity is about the experience of alterity as implicated in modern discourse theories, if it is in the modern discourse „as a drop of water in the sea“, how then Christianity can keep a proper identity? If Christianity is not the „new mythology“ but something undistinguishably disappearing in modernity’s new mythologies, does this, too, not imply a proper mythology? Otherwise, how could it do what it has to do?